Friday, October 21, 2016

What Happens To Our Recyclables? A Visit To The Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility

photo above  courtesy of

Have you ever wondered what happens to the curbside recycling that the New York City Department of Sanitation picks up weekly in front of our buildings? If you live in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Gowanus and surrounding neighborhoods, what you collect in your blue and green recycling cans is transported directly to the Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility, which is operated by Sims Municipal Recycling (SMR).
The three year old state-of-the art facility is located on an 11-acre City-owned pier at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to learn about the facility on a tour organized by Community Board 6. It was and led by Eadaoin Quinn, the Education and Administrative Coordinator for SMR. After visiting the exhibit at the education center, where Quinn answered all sorts of questions related to recycling and re-using, the group got to see the actual sorting of material. It was fascinating and inspired me to be even more committed to recycling.

SMR, a division of Sims Metal Management Limited, has a twenty year contract with the City's Sanitation Department "to provide processing and marketing services for 100% of the metal, glass and plastic and approximately 50% of the paper collected in the largest curbside program in North America."
SMR and DSNY work as partners to make curbside recycling efficient and effective in order to keep trash out of landfills.

Recyclable material is transported to the Recovery Facility from all five boroughs by truck, rail and barge. Here, mounds of plastic, glass, and metal is sorted by sophisticated machinery. The sorted material is then bundled so that it can be sold and shipped out to processors and manufacturers, which will repurpose the material.

Our paper and cardboard is also shipped here. After the paper is sorted, it is directly shipped to a manufacturer in Staten Island who will use the pulp to make pizza boxes, tissues and other assorted paper products with it.

It is humbling to see the cheer volume that gets thrown out every day. Luckily, all these empty cans and bottles will stay out of landfills. So for all who still don't sort out their garbage into the proper bins because they believe that the Sanitation Department throws everything together anyway, that is simply not true.

Recycling, as well as composting, matters for us and for future generations. So, please, just do it!

To take a tour and learn about recycling and sustainability, and witness it in action, contact the Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love seeing this. Love. Sadly people in our neighborhood Just don't get it. Large cardboard boxes shoved into the bins with the person's address still on it! Does smith street not have recycling? The bins don't lock so I've seen the inner metal can stolen. Most likely dragged to the metal place near Lowes. The ones in Europe much better. Big round hemispheres color coded for glass and plastic with small openings at the top. And every man woman and child tosses the proper can into them. I was happy to see these bins but with all the people moving into this area with money and education,I mean, how hard can it be. On weekends the cans overflow with everything but what they are made for. I hope people will catch on.